The BBC reports that Kenya has persistently refused to permit an atheist group to register for what is quite frankly an absurd reason. They report …
A group of Kenyan atheists say they have suffered “blatant discrimination” after the authorities refused to register their society.
They were told the application was turned down because of concerns that registration could affect the “peace… [and] good order” in the country.
The 60-member Atheists In Kenya applied for official recognition last year.
The Atheists in Kenya (AIK) have now issued a formal press release …
The Prevailing Mythology
The driving force behind this is the religious belief that you must be religious to be good, and that the non-religious are wicked evil people, hence the official reason given for the rejection of their attempt to register their group was …
“‘the interests of peace and welfare or good order in Kenya would be likely to suffer prejudice’ by reason of our (atheist’s) registration as a society.”
This belief is a common and very pervasive myth that is very easily refuted using real empirical data, and not simply by expressing a different opinion. For example Phil Zuckerman’s paper clearly lays out the evidence that it is the most secular least religious that are the most peaceful …
It is often assumed that someone who doesn’t believe in God doesn’t believe in anything, or that a person who has no religion must have no values. These assumptions are simply untrue. People can reject religion and still maintain strong beliefs. Being godless does not mean being without values. Numerous studies reveal that atheists and secular people most certainly maintain strong values, beliefs, and opinions. But more significantly, when we actually compare the values and beliefs of atheists and secular people to those of religious people, the former are markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close- minded, and less authoritarian (Greeley and Hout, 2006; Sider, 2005; Altemeyer, 2003, 2009; Jackson and Hunsberger, 1999; Wulff, 1991; Altemeyer and Hunsberger, 1992, 1997; Beit-Hallahmi, 2007; Beit-Hallahmi and Argyle, 1997; Batson et al., 1993; Argyle, 2000).
If indeed the assertion that being non-religious was actually true, then we would be able to predict a couple of things …
- With the rapidly rising demographic of nones in the US, we should observe a rising rate of crime … but we don’t, and if you check the statistics you find that the rate is falling, not rising – things are getting better, far better.
- If indeed not being religious threatens the welfare and good order of society, then the number one demographic within jail should be the non-religious … but once again we find the complete reverse. In the US, where 3% are atheist, 5% are agnostic and as many as 21% are not-religious, the prison population only consists of 0.1% atheists, the rest are religious.
One other common rebuttal is to perhaps point to Stalin and Mao and suggest that they are examples of a non-religious society, but once again this is a tad silly because they were quite obviously political fanatics who demanded “obey and submit or die”, and where driven by deeply irrational political beliefs that were almost akin to being religious in nature – in other words, when it comes to Stalin and Mao, the issue was not what they did not believe, but rather was what they did believe.
The real challenge in Kenya is not the non-religious, but rather the religious …
- Burning innocent people alive for the crime of being witches (see also here, and here, and here, and on and on and on)
- Jailing people for the “crime” of simply being gay for up to 14 years. and we have also seen attempts to introduce the death penalty for simply being gay.
… and remember that all of that is driven by deeply irrational religious beliefs.
Bottom Line: The real threat to “‘the interests of peace and welfare or good order in Kenya”, is religious intolerance.